THESE are very busy days. It seems even 24 hours are not sufficient for my search. Google is not of much help, it is only trying to make me understand what it is, not where it is. Indeed, the search is for that thing which is available at a premium these days – conscience.
Conscience, the last time I found it publicly was on that fateful winter day in Delhi. December 16, 2012. Adding to my surprised happiness, I found it across the country, resonating Delhi. It was suddenly everywhere, all over the country. So, it has arrived! Conscience, as I found out on those days was not wrinkled, smelling of the glorious past. In fact, it was young, without even losing its childhood fat. It was raw and determined. Beneath the rage, I saw future in its eyes. Hope. Ah, is the moment arriving, finally! Or is it a chimera?
Since 2014, many things have been happening. I don’t like what you speak, attack. I don’t like what you eat, attack. I don’t like what you wear, attack. I don’t like whom you befriend, attack. I don’t like whom you love/marry, attack. I don’t like how you celebrate your marriage, attack. Attack, you have got wrong denomination of notes. Attack, you are asking for more money to sell your crops in the market. Attack, you are asking for more wages for your work. Attack, you are asking for fresh air to breathe and fresh water to drink. Attack, you wanted to be you, not me. Attack? No. Shoot. Kill. Rape. Or better, both rape and kill.
I was searching. Where are you?
Unnao, a seventeen year old girl was raped. Where are you? Kathua, an eight year old girl was raped. Where are you? Muzaffarpur child shelter, more than 30 girls were sexually assaulted. Where are you? Everyday newspapers teach us lessons in Indian geography. Names of new villages and cities. All reporting one or the other incident of rape, murder. Where are you? Don’t you read newspapers?
Suddenly a bomb was dropped. In the heart of our capital city, Delhi, yes Delhi again and it might be nothing new for Delhi. A second class child was raped inside the school in that prestigious, high security area, which is just a stone’s throwaway from the parliament. Where are you?
Conscience, are you awake? Or….Oh! You have become numb?
One rape. You are angry, come out seething. Shout out loud at the brutality. Question the system. Demand answers. Second rape. You are angry, you shout, you question. Third rape. You are dejected. Fourth rape. You note the numbers. Fifth rape. It is not even a number. It is just normal. Sun rises in the east, girls and women, irrespective of age are raped. Is that you conscience? You have grown tired?
Nazim Hikmet, the famous Turkish poet, wrote that in the 20th century, grief does not last for more than a year. Living in 21st century, has the time for our grief become further short? A month? A week? A day? Or an hour or still less?
One rape. You are shouting, shaking, marching, showing four fists, braving water cannons, bringing down barricades. You are not only you. You have become WE. Second rape. You are shouting, marching, showing your fist. You are still not only you. But you have become We. Third rape. You are shouting. Still you are we. Fourth rape. You are wailing. Fifth rape. Where are you, conscience? Afraid?
There is hatred around. There is violence around. There are murders around. There is blood around. There are abuses and threats around. There is name-calling. Traitor, anti-national, obstructionists…They are demanding silence. Shall they have it? Where are you, conscience?
If you are numb, afraid and silent, who are you? Are you conscience?
Hikmet said that we are the ‘Strangest Creatures on the Earth’. He says that we are ‘like scorpions, living in cowardly darkness’, we are ‘sparrows’, always ready to ‘flutter’ and clams, who are content and live a closed life. But he also says that we are like the mouth of volcano and number in millions. He writes that in spite of this strength, at times we act like sheep who march proudly to the slaughterhouse when a stick is raised. Continuing his allegories, he states that we are even like fish, which cannot see the ocean for water. And then he concludes:
“And the oppression in this world
is thanks to you.
And if we're hungry, tired, covered with blood,
and still being crushed like grapes for our wine,
the fault is yours….”
Conscience, are you similar to what Hikmet has described above? Or are you like a lion, as he himself has stated somewhere else? A lion in an iron cage, into whose eyes if we look deep enough, will find that they are sparkling with anger. A lion, which never ‘loses his dignity/although his anger/comes and goes/goes and comes’.
Yes. Some conscientious farmers are marching. Some conscientious workers are fighting. Some conscientious dalits are struggling. Some conscientious students are rising. But where is my conscientious country? What are you doing? A country is more than the sum of its parts. It is the sum of workers, peasants, dalits, students, women and much more.
Conscience, remember they are deliberately trying to frighten you with their might, power and benumb you. Violence against girls and women are intended to ensure that Manu’s wish is realised – women, confined only to homes, never to venture out. And their role to be confined only to take care of their husbands, children (preferably boys) and fathers. Don’t get fooled by all this campaign of empowerment of women. If women are really to be empowered, why are they not acting when crimes on women are committed? Conscience, remember women together with dalits are to remain at the bottom of the social pyramid – only to be exploited. Economically, workers, agricultural labourers and farmers too consist of the bottom half of the pyramid – only to be exploited.
Conscience, remember ‘as long as the jewel/on the left side of your chest doesn't lose its luster’, ‘being captured is beside the point/the point is not to surrender’. (Hikmet again) Hope you will not surrender, but keep on being what you are – CONSCIENCE.
Let us together read Yannis Ritsos, the Greek revolutionary poet:
How long will you be able to remain silent? How far will the
They steal from you the smile, they steal even your tears. Where
will love stay?
A bayonet gleams in front of the bread
a bayonet pierces the child in the mother's belly.
Let us join our hands,
let this wind dry our eyes.
Our children sleep under the mountains,
- let us weep for our children,
let them hear the crackling of the seeds – that's why they fell
so that bread won't be missing from the table,
so that the root of the smile will not die in our hearts. This wind
keeps their blood and their voice. Let us.
This wind is big
it is huge this wind
it is joyful, joyful, joyful,
knocks down the walls raised between the peoples
knocks down the walls of death
knocks down the walls between the mind and the heart
the walls between you and me
and opens wide over the one world, the sun's window.
Listen how this wind whistles
in the bloodstained neighborhoods of the world.